Currently reading: UK bought twice as many cars as it scrapped this year
Cars are being kept alive longer as cost of living remains high; Ford Focus is the country's most scrapped car

The UK bought more than twice as many cars as it scrapped in 2023, according to data obtained by Autocar.

Obtained by Freedom of Information request, it revealed that 798,363 cars and light commercial vehicles (LCVs) were scrapped between the start of January and the end of October. 

That's less than half of the 1,889,758 new cars and LCVs purchased over the same period, and a drop compared with the 857,107 vehicles scrapped over the same period last year.

This was despite the boost likely provided by London's ULEZ scrappage scheme, which had its eligibility criteria broadened in early August. 

Autocar recently reported that the ULEZ scrappage scheme was struggling to meet demand from applicants, following the expansion of the clean-air zone on 29 August.

The previous ULEZ scrappage scheme – which ran in 2021 and had much stricter requirements – was alone responsible for taking some 15,000 cars off the road, according to Transport for London.

Nonetheless, the UK's car parc continues to age: European industry lobby group the ACEA published figures in January revealing that the UK's average car was 10 years old.Cars in scrapyard

The Ford Focus was the most-scrapped car in the UK this year, with 42,637 examples going to scrapyards.

The Focus has long been one of the UK's favourite cars. On its arrival in late 1998, it set a new benchmark for family-minded buyers, handily beating its rivals in almost every respect.

It had more radical, forward-thinking styling, rode more comfortably, handled better and yet wasn't significantly more expensive.

Between 1999 and 2009 – over two generations - the Focus held the top spot on the UK's annual new car sales charts.

After that point, the smaller Ford Fiesta became the nation’s most-bought car, but the Focus remained a regular fixture in the top 10. 

Since 2009, there have been another two generations of Focus, but the long-running hatchback will meet its end in 2025, amid Ford's wider reinvention in Europe.

Scrapped Vauxhall Zafira

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Indeed, the list of the nation’s most-scrapped cars broadly mirrors the previous two decades’ annual best-seller lists.

The Focus was followed by the Vauxhall Astra, of which 35,578 examples were destroyed between January and October.

The Vauxhall Corsa was next, at 34,405, followed by the Fiesta, at 32,935.

The UK’s most-scrapped cars, January-October 2023

1. Ford Focus – 42,637 units

1998 Ford Focus – front cornering

2. Vauxhall Astra – 35,578 units

2007 Vauxhall Astra – front driving

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3. Vauxhall Corsa – 34,405 units

2007 Vauxhall Corsa – front cornering

4. Ford Fiesta – 32,935 units

2009 Ford Fiesta driving – front quarter

5. Vauxhall Zafira – 16,898 units

2006 Vauxhall Zafira – front cornering

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6. Volkswagen Golf – 25,903 units

2005 Volkswagen Golf – front cornering

7. Renault Clio – 15,955 units

2009 Renault Clio – front cornering

8. Ford Mondeo – 14,218 units

2007 Ford Mondeo driving – front quarter

9. Volkswagen Polo – 13,722 units

2005 Volkswagen Polo driving – front quarter

10. BMW 3 Series – 13,642 units

2022 BMW 3 Series Touring – front cornering

Charlie Martin

Charlie Martin Autocar
Title: Editorial Assistant, Autocar

As a reporter, Charlie plays a key role in setting the news agenda for the automotive industry. He joined Autocar in July 2022 after a nine-month stint as an apprentice with sister publication, What Car?. He's previously contributed to The Intercooler, and placed second in Hagerty’s 2019 Young Writer competition with a feature on the MG Metro 6R4

He is the proud owner of a Fiat Panda 100HP, and hopes to one day add a lightweight sports car like an Alpine A110 or a Lotus Elise S1 to his collection.

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405line 14 December 2023

The title says more cars bought than scrapped this year, the next line then it goes on to suggest that people are keeping their older vehicles longer whch seems at odds with the headline. What is the purpose of this article?

Is it Just Me 13 December 2023

In some ways not surprised the UK car fleet is getting older I think on many levels attitude to new cars might has changed for lots of motorists, since lockdown, kicking things of was production restrictions hitting new car supply then manufactures and dealers playing the market to increase profit margins as a result restricted choice, new and used car prices shotting up big time.

That restriction in choice and high prices left many unable to update vehicles and for some broke the habit to update, as time passed I think a lot of motorists accepted keeping what they had if still served their needs and was serviceable and durable enough.

It’s a great shame as things improved after lockdowns many motorist dipping a toe into the new market were faced with a sea of bland overpriced over spec’d metal sitting on dealer forecourts or high priced electric options being the other choice also along with many popular models or trims dropped from ranges is it any wonder certainly private motorists a sticking with what they’ve got until the wheels drop off :-)

xxxx 13 December 2023

Just shows how good cars are these days, I've a 10 year old car which is better than the current model, looks modern, has no rust and drives like it has 10k on clock.

I was lucky if my mk1 Escorts made it to 100k and 10 years a new Focus could and should double that.